For the past several years, publicly funded employment inclusion service providers across Canada have showed a growing interest in Disability Employment Awareness Month. The progression has been obvious and encouraging. Initially promotional initiatives were sporadic and driven by service provider organizations. More recently, however, DEAM has been trending in a positive direction with the broader community taking on prominent roles in DEAM events and activities; positive because employment inclusion is not solely about services and supports but also about private sector engagement, progressive policy and evidence based practice.
DEAM represents an opportunity for employment inclusion support agencies and advocates to enlist the support of broader community partners and policy makers in order to help make the mission of workplace inclusion everyone’s mission. Given that a huge part of our work as service providers is to coach employers how to effectively include the job seekers we represent, the opportunity to spread and share this mission beyond our agencies is invaluable.
We all know that there are no shortage of special interest groups and official days, weeks, or months to promote awareness of various disability-related groups. Literally dozens of these ‘awareness periods’ exist – nationally and internationally; so many that, as a 25 year professional in disability services, I can’t even come close to keeping track of them all. DEAM stand out for me in that it recognizes all disabilities, promotes disability as diversity, celebrates the workforce contributions of people with disabilities and promotes the type of inclusion which reduces poverty, isolation and marginalization. As ‘awareness periods’ go, DEAM has enormous potential to improve the lives of all people with disabilities – while strengthening our workforce and our economy. Employment inclusion has positive impact for everyone.
As Canada enters 2018, the issue of employment accessibility will be addressed in legislation. The physical and systemic accessibility of employment opportunities and workplaces will become an issue that all employers have to contend with. This Disability Employment Awareness Month 2017, let’s acknowledge that disability is the fastest growing minority group on the planet and that, of the 1 in 6 Canadians with disabilities, only 50% are employed. We will only correct this injustice (and strengthen our workforce) through purposeful action. Policy makers at the federal and provincial levels are seeing the need for this action. Progressive business leaders are leveraging diversity for a more engaged and innovative workforce. Technology and support resources are making employment more accessible and opening the work environment to the diversity group. On all fronts we’re seeing that the future is inclusive of people with disabilities.
What will your organization do to prepare for and embrace this future?